Silicon Valley CEO tour day 1 – IDEO/Google/Ericsson/Chip Conley

November 8, 2011 § 1 Comment

I was originally hoping to provide daily detailed updates and comments from the 5 day CEO tour of Silicon Valley, but I now suspect the pace may be too much and insights too great and mind extending to do it justice. So I will try to provide some insights and then sum up at the end.

Today the team of 35 CEOs from New Zealand companies descended on Silicon Valley to gain practice insights into how Design is applied in business. The day started with a 2 hour practical workshop at IDEO on how the principles of design thinking work. Having been through a number of design thinking processes and read many of the books, IDEO highlighted to me the importance of extracting the emotion in customer experiences to identify and frame up their needs based on empathy. Coming from an analytical background where numbers and objectivity rule the decision making and evaluation process, this workshop highlighted that emotion and attaching story’s to needs will surpass traditional analysis, and potentially open up a new range of customers opportunities.

IDEO have a great ability to weave poetry and together to open up new possibilities for innovation.

Next stop was to view their facilities which is a combination of practical and creative spaces. They clearly spends a lot of time providing the right rules and conditions for people to create the environment that works for them.

IDEO live by the mantra of build to think and for me really highlighted the importance of getting practically involved in building prototypes enable the innovation process.

Next stop, Google and what a place. 30year olds roam the campus and what seems like organized and highly structured freedom. From the get go, it is clear that the Google head office campus is fully of creativity. There is no sense that this place is probably filled with more millionaires than most countries as a result of their stock options; they all seemed too focused on creating success to worry about the outcome.

The main point that sticks with me is their system of peer review and ensuring that you are rated as contributing and achieving by your peers. To me this seems a form of Darwinism, where those that contribute more to the success of the business survive and advance, while creating a system that seems to bind the organisation together.

Then on to Ericsson, which is a complete contrast to IDEO and Google. A business with extreme challenges with its business model and culture. It has 134years of traditional weighing it down so provided a great contrast and reminder of the difficulty of building innovation within a more traditional and “safe” environment where the new age fail fast and cheaply does not easily fit. For me the visit to Ericsson was really insightful to balance the Google and IDEO methods of inspiring innovation, which is not always applicable across all sectors.

To cap the night off, Chip Conley, founder of Joie De Vivre spoke about how the Theory of Maslow can frame a system of values to inspire people and create transformation in business. Probably the best presentation of why companies need a clear purpose and calling to inspire people, and what tangible vision statements don’t cut the mustard across all stakeholders.

A great day, and I am sure there’s much more to come.


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